When Apple built their first store here in Phoenix, Arizona I was ecstatic. No longer would I be forced to order Apple-related products online, I could walk into a store and walk out with virtually anything I needed. The atmosphere was fantastic – with plenty of space to move around and try everything, the staff knowledgeable and helpful, and the Genius Bar was such a great resource.
Those days are gone. Probably forever.
The Apple Retail Store has lost virtually everything that made it great, mostly due to their own popularity and success. It’s truly unfortunate.
Let’s start with the Genius Bar, the one thing that made the stores famous. It used to be you could walk up to the bar, sit down and figure out a problem with your Mac, get advice on software or hardware purchases, or just plain have a conversation about anything Apple. See that picture above; when was the last time you saw a Genius Bar that looked like that? From the time the store opens until the minute it closes, the Genius Bar has four or five Apple Genius’ working, and no less than 15 people waiting. And forget about walking up to ask a question, you have to make an appointment (which doesn’t prevent you from having to wait). Heck, the stores are so crowded that it’s a chore just to get back to the Genius Bar.
The Apple Stores used to have a kids area showcasing games and education software. While I never really had the need to visit that area, it was nice for those who did. They also used to have a wide selection of software, plenty of keyboards, input devices, printers, scanners and other hardware to accompany your Mac. All things of the past. Apple replaced those spaces with larger display tables to place Macs, iPods, iPhones and iPads on. The problem is, it almost seems like they have LESS Macs set up for new users to play with.
The cash registers are gone because they no longer accept cash as a payment method. This isn’t such a bad thing if you ask me, but it is making it difficult to actually buy something in the store without waiting what can be 30-minutes or more for an associate to be free to help you.
And don’t get me started on those “knowledgeable and helpful sales associates.” They’ve been replaced with booger eaters and mouth breathers who spend most of their day doing nothing more than pointing you toward the one thing the stores still sell in abundance besides iPhones and iPods – and those are iPhone and iPod cases. If you’re a “pro” Mac user it’s almost painful listening to these dolts try to “help” people. They either aren’t being trained at all, or are simply too busy to be truly helpful to less knowledgeable customers. You can get better advice and answers using one of the display Macs to Google your question – that is, if you could actually get to one.
The stores are simply too overcrowded to be useful. This of course isn’t Apple’s fault, they’re just a victim of their own success. The Mac App Store guarantees we won’t see a return of software to the shelves of the Apple Retail Stores, and with the popularity of iPhones and iPads, there’s likely to be even less space dedicated to 3rd-party peripherals in the future. With the Genius Bar being too popular to handle the volume anymore, it begs the question, “how long before the Apple Stores turn into the very retail experience they were created to replace (ComputerWorld, Frys Electronics, BestBuy, etc.)?
Unfortunately, the thought of even walking into an Apple Retail Store carries little to no interest for me anymore.